Three months ago, single mum-of-two Charlotte Sapwell had never so much as picked up a tool since failing her year nine woodwork class.
Now, the Victorian woman is less than a month from completing a tiny house – built entirely with her own hands, with guidance from her grandad, experienced renovator Rob.
The 26-year-old told Mamamia that the project didn’t come from a desire to jump on board the growing tiny house trend, but was born out of necessity.
“About two and a half years ago my husband actually decided that he no longer wanted to be married anymore, and Theo was five weeks old,” she told Mamamia. “So that happened.”
Soon, Charlotte and her two young sons, Eli and Theo (now five and two years old respectively) were forced to move from their home and downsize to a rental property.
However, the Ballarat mum once again faced upheaval four months ago when her ex-husband took a new, lower-paying job that severely reduced his child support payments.
Unable to pay her rent anymore, Charlotte was out of options and faced with sleeping on her parent’s couch – until her grandad made a suggestion that they build a tiny house on her parent’s property.
“I genuinely didn’t know what I was going to do.”
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“My grandad has flipped 50 houses over his lifetime… He said, ‘why don’t we build a tiny house?’ I was like, ‘oh my God, there’s no way I could actually do that’.”
“I failed year nine woodwork, actually.”
However, Charlotte said her grandad convinced her to give it a go, adding “when it comes down to it I’ll do anything for my boys”.
“So I went outside and fell in love with a nail gun and the rest is probably history.”
“I’m actually loving it. I didn’t think I would be good at it, but it turns out… I haven’t had a leak yet, so I must be doing something right.”
Charlotte and her grandad set to work converting an old site office into a bedroom she and the boys could sleep in, which they’ve been doing there since April.
After creating a bedroom, the next most important step was building a bathroom with a working toilet, to end the trips to her parent's house for the bathroom.
"A flushing loo was the main priority. When it's 2 o' clock in the morning with a two-year-old (the walk to the house) is brisk."
Between the school run and chasing after Theo, Charlotte has dedicated any spare time to constructing her tiny house.
"I've done everything. I've built the frame, I wrapped it in blue paper, I've done roofing, I've done tiling, plumbing - everything that comes to a house I have done."
"I'm just about to start a room for the boys."
Charlotte said the project has shifted her perspective on what she actually needs from a home.
"I don't need much at all. Since we moved to the tiny house I've never been outside so much and going places and just being outside with the kids. Because there's not a lot of room indoors, you're outdoors a lot more."
Charlotte estimates the entire project will cost her $10,000 - not bad considering the average house price in the regional Victorian city is $405,000.
To finance it, she's worked at her own pace and taken out a loan with her grandad - which she hopes to repay by the end of the year and be a debt-free homeowner at 27 years old.
Charlotte is also hoping to have construction finished in time for her 27th birthday on 1 August, so she can have a dual housewarming and birthday party.
Regardless if she meets her timeline or not, the mum-of-two is proud of her efforts.
"It might be tiny, but it's my own."
Would you ever consider building a tiny house?